Monday, September 21, 2009

When Gender Must Matter

Times have changes since women bound their feet, wore corsets, weren't allowed to vote or own property and were the property of their fathers or husbands.

In addition to far more gender equality than ever before in the history of history, there has been a lot of gender blurring in the last fifty years.

From male nurses to female fire fighters; stay-home daddies and company CEO moms. From rocket science to body building there really aren't any fields that women haven't explored, adopted and excelled.

But it would be foolish to pretend that gender doesn't cause some differences. The gender you are born as forever impacts who you are and even what you are capable of.

While some people choose to "change" their gender, and this is becoming a more widely accepted practice, there are some areas this causes problems.

When it comes to the athletic arena, some women ARE stronger, faster and more skilled then SOME men. However, as a genetic rule males are born with larger denser bones, more muscle and greater strength and speed.

As a professional athlete, you are bound to certain dimensions of your gender. There a profound differences in the physical appearance of most men vs. women. While very athletic women have more muscle definition that seems closer to that of some men, it still looks different and is shaped differently.

It's not just the broadness of the shoulders, but the placement of the collar bones and the curvature of the shoulders. It's not just the shape of the hips and thighs, the placement of their belly button above or below their waist line, but also the proportions of those muscles to the muscles in the rest of their bodies and increased fat cells storage as well as the location of natural fat deposits.

Women can have washboard abs, but for the most part they don't have the V shaped torsos that men have. And when female breast fat deposits give way to leanness, their pecks generally don't resemble a mans.

The shape of a forehead, the height of cheekbones and the construction of the neck are usually quite (if subtly) different in men than in women. Men also have thicker skin, broader hands and feet and typically deeper voices with a masculine pitch.

Mannerisms, posture and presentation are distinct and noticeable between the genders too. At rest and at work, the way a person moves and carries their body lends to impressions of what gender they are biologically.

These elusive but present collection of features and characteristics allow a person, even at a distance, to pick the men from a crowd of females and vice verse.

There are some women who at a glance more resemble men. There are men who can be mistaken for women. But this is often because they are deliberately trying to be mistaken for the other gender or because of genetic features they have due to a heavy dose of the opposite gender hormone at some time in their infancy or later in life.

Rare medical conditions with gender can happen. A person can be born with both sexual genitalia or parts of each. For many careers and lifestyle choices gender blurring may not be too controversial. But there are times and places when this may be particularly relevant: Like when it gives someone an unfair advantage over everyone else of normal genders that they are competing with.

Semenya is an 18 year old competitive runner from Africa. The gender of this person is pretty important when they are blowing past the competition and setting new records.

If Semenya is a female, she's earned and deserves the praise, glory and trophies. If Semenya is a male, there has been a serious breech of honor and sportsmanship and the titles and awards need to be given to the real winner(s).

If it turns out that Semenya IS genetically somewhere between male and female, there might need to be new rules written clarifying who is allowed to compete. Regardless of the outcome of genetic testing for this particular case, it wouldn't be a bad idea for new wording to be added to all professional athletic rules that are gender specific.

There seems to be a lot of run around with the gender testing for Semenya. Instead of growing longer hair and wearing more feminine clothing as they are apparently having her do, in response to all the questions being raised about her natural gender, a blood test and a pelvic exam by a qualified doctor should do the trick. It shouldn't take more than a few hours for the gender question to be answered.

Why is it taking so long? How hard can it be to tell if Semenya has ovaries or testicles, a uterus or a prostate?

One last question. IF Semenya IS a female as "she" claims to be, then why is "she" dressed like the male runners?

And isn't a just a tiny bit funny that SeMENya has the term for male in "her" name?

Follow up Article:

Semenya Gender Test Results


Allan said...

2 things.
First, I read something about how he has undescended testicles but he also has an androgen sensitivity that theorhetically means that the testosterone produced has no effect on him. One arguement was made saying that means he has no advantage but that's obviously not the case. I'd say it's more realistic to say that he is a male without a penis whose body cannot process testosterone and who is more athletically gifted than women. HE can either compete with the MEN or not at all.

Allan said...

I got distracted doing something else and I've now forgotten what the second thing was... I'll get back with you.

Allan said...

The second thing... And I can't believe I forgot it.
8 or 9 years ago my roommate and I were driving down the highway and saw this little red convertible full of long blonde hair, with a slender arm out playing in the wind. Then I hear, "Dude! Speed up and get beside her." So I speed up and he's all excited until "she" turns to look at us and has a goatee. Of course I told all the guys on the boat about it and he was the resident homo from that day on. Ahhhh memories.